Wells Fargo was fined $185 million because of employees opening up millions of fake accounts to meet their numbers. Citigroup lost a $158 million lawsuit by the Department of Justice due to fraudulent loan practices. GlaxoSmithKline needed to pay $3 billion for misleading safety information on their drugs.

All of these sound like massive sums – until you put them in context.

In the Infinite Game, Simon Sinek reports that Wells Fargo’s fine was less than one percent of their total profit of $22 billion the year they were fined and only 0.2 percent of their total revenues of nearly $95 billion. It’s the equivalent of someone who makes $75,000 in annual salary being fined $150.*

Citigroup’s judgment was 1.4 percent of their net income of $11.2 billion, and consider GSK’s $3 billion fine against the $25 billion in sales for those prescriptions.

I thought of this when our local grocery chain hung a big banner proclaiming that they were donating “1 million dollars and hours” to support racial equality and unity. I wondered if it was a significant step in response to the negative PR the chain received for boarding up all of their stores after George Floyd’s death – even though the closest violent protest was over an hour away. But $1 million seems modest in comparison to last year’s $10.6 billion in revenue.

Put the numbers you see in perspective – especially big numbers that are hard to grasp. Millions and billions aren’t always that significant in the overall.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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